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Emmy Predictions 2018: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series

The wave of the future clashes with past favorites in a tight docuseries competition. [Updated: August 9]

Wild Wild Country

“Wild Wild Country”

Netflix

Last Year’s Winner: “Planet Earth II”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: A network hasn’t won this category in back-to-back years since PBS in 2013 and 2014, which was also the last time the same show won twice in a row — “American Masters.”

“American Masters” has 17 nominations and 10 wins in this category, which is far and away the most of either accolade. But a new trend in docuseries, as well as new mediums supporting the genre, are clashing with PBS’s established favorite. HBO’s “The Jinx” and Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” solidified the interest in and respect for true crime docuseries, and while last year saw “Planet Earth II” take the Emmy, the genre’s success has lead to more competition overall.

In 2018, that resulted in another nomination for “American Masters,” as well as a slew of high-profile offerings from HBO, Netflix, Showtime, and BBC America. “The Defiant Ones” made such a mark on voters it managed to earn a nod more than a year after its HBO debut. The four-part music documentary focusing on Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine is a big threat to take the top prize, especially given the backing behind it.

That is, if “Wild Wild Country” doesn’t win. Netflix’s hit (I mean, as far as we can tell without ratings) is the arguably the most buzzed about docuseries of the year, and the Duplass brothers-produced entry earned excellent reviews. Voters won’t soon forget that one either, and the March release remains a talked about TV show even in the dead of summer.

That being said, “The Fourth Estate” is even more recent and arguably more relevant. Liz Garbus’ thorough examination of The New York Times during the first year under President Trump is looking to capitalize off much-needed support for the free press, and the look back on recent history could draw out the right emotions from those who covered Trump well. “Blue Planet II” is also hoping to capitalize off the past, but not in the same way. Yes, the original “Blue Planet” docuseries won two Emmys, but it missed out on this category. If the sequel hopes to win, it’s best chance is playing up the connection to Emmy favorite “Planet Earth” and last year’s winning sequel, “Planet Earth II.”

Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series (listed in alphabetical order), which will be updated throughout the season. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz and highlights from the 2018 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well.

The Nominees:

  1. “American Masters”
  2. “Blue Planet II”
  3. “The Defiant Ones”
  4. “The Fourth Estate”
  5. “Wild Wild Country”

Will Win: “Wild Wild Country”
Could Win:
“The Defiant Ones”
Should Win:
“Wild Wild Country”

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